The National Sporting Library & Museum recently received a donation of photographs originally from the collection of Liz Whitney Tippett. Ms. Tippett was a champion horsewoman, enjoying great success with racing and breeding Thoroughbreds throughout the 20th Century. In the 1930s, she and her first husband, John Hay “Jock” Whitney, lived at Llangollen Farm in Upperville, Virginia, a site of steeplechase races from 1931 to 1934.
Today’s image is a bit of a mystery. First, a look at the verso (back) of the photograph, which bears a handwritten note.
How fortunate that we live in an age where we can easily show these around! The recto (front) of the photo is below. Click on it to see the enlarged version. In looking closely, I found:
Several picnic parties
The jockey’s tent, named in the caption above
A golf course
There is no indication of a date on the photograph. Looking closely, what can you see? Can you find more details? We’ll be sharing more images here, and you can also view more historic images from the NSLM collections by liking our Facebook page.
I woke up at 3 am on the first morning of the sold-out Two-Day Colin Barker Photography Workshop and groaned. I was the organizer of the program, and it was pouring buckets. The storm woke me up again a half hour before my alarm clock. It was still pouring. I got nervous. I wanted people to have an authentic experience but not this authentic.
Thankfully, by the time I arrived at the Orange County Hounds kennels to meet Huntsman Reg Spreadborough the sky was already starting to clear. Reg had said he would try to delay feeding, and I could hear the hounds baying in complaint even before I opened my car door. Colin had also taken it upon himself to visit Reg in the morning and the night before. I wasn’t surprised. I’d met Colin for the first time the previous day, and every impression I had of him in collaborating on his National Sporting Library & Museum exhibition was confirmed. A soft-spoken man, the artist’s sincerity, quiet passion, and focus come through in his richly-detailed, meticulous images.
It is one thing to see Colin’s finished work in the Part of the Pack: The Hunt at Petworth exhibition on view at NSLM through January 10th. It is quite another to have the opportunity to watch the recognized photographer in action from idea to completion.
Colin is on the constant lookout for raw, earthy, unstaged moments. He was disappointed that it had stopped raining. The photographer excels, even thrives, in pushing himself and his equipment in extremes of weather and low light. He was determined that the group would have a challenging experience and receive a behind-the-scenes-view of a day in the life of hunt staff (while being followed around by Paparazzi at every turn, anyway).
As the workshop participants arrived, we held a brief introduction. It was a great mix of professional, amateur, and aspiring photographers. Colin stressed that he wanted everyone to respect each other’s space as we lined up in the cramped hallway to the kennel interior for the opportunity to photograph the hounds feeding. He advised us to let our lenses acclimate in the humidity and described the pecking order in which the pack would eat.
The kennels were immaculately kept, and it was exhilarating to stand in the midst of over thirty hounds as they pressed up against my legs. I was expecting chaos, but the pack was surprisingly delicate and almost civilized as it fed. Colin discussed at length his motivation for calling his series “Part of the Pack”. It was raw moments such as these.
Next, we followed the huntsman and whip as they exercised the hounds. The hunt staff was obviously keeping the pace slower to give us plenty of photo opportunities. Colin mentioned that the hounds had already followed Reg on a bicycle that morning, their usual routine.
The puppy kennels were the final stop. Colin asked Reg to pick one up and hold it for a while, not something that is commonly done in training foxhounds. It was an endearing opportunity.
Yet, Colin did not want us to leave here. He’d asked the huntsman to discuss the ins and outs of looking after the kennels and hounds year-round. As we gathered around him, Reg was professional, sincere, and open to a wide range of questions. He and the Orange County Hound staff as a whole had set aside hours of their day, and we were so appreciative of their efforts to present an intimate and engaging morning.
As I settled into my car seat to drive back to NSLM, I was reminded that Colin had prepared us for the powerful smells in the kennels. I didn’t even notice the odor wafting up from my favorite hiking shoes until that moment. I had to open the windows, but it was totally worth it. Here was the perfect reminder of my authentic experience.
Back at NSLM we spent the rest of the day in class. It was a gift to listen to Colin’s experiences following the CL & C Hunt and the stories of camaraderie and fortitude that are the backbone of the Part of the Pack photography series as he presented a slide show of his body of work.
We then had a chance to “get our geek on” when he switched gears to share black and white post-processing tips in Photoshop. While many professionals keep their skills close to their chests, Colin was again generous with his knowledge.
Overnight, we were invited to apply what we learned to a small selection of our own photos. There wasn’t nearly enough time, especially after learning that Colin works on a single image for as long as forty hours to coax the most detail, nuance, and contrast out of a raw file. I was honestly a little bit nervous about the critique session, but I had nothing to worry about. When constructive criticism was offered it was tactful and spot on, and Colin seemed impressed with the quality of the work we produced. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing everyone else’s creative angles. Each person in the room had experienced a moment that was their own unique story to share.
Here are some of mine…
My goal was to improve my image processing skills, but in the end I learned the most about taking more time to connect with my subjects, not just to frame them. I think I echo the sentiments of the rest of the workshop participants in wanting to start the weekend over again … maybe this time, with a little bit of rain.
Fletcher Harper, MFH (1874-1963) was Master of the Orange County Hunt for 33 seasons, from 1920 to 1953. In 1900, the Hunt was originally organized in and named for Orange County, New York, but was relocated to Fauquier County, Virginia, in 1903. A set of Orange County Hunting Diaries from 1936 to 1969 are held in the NSLM archives.
Mr. Harper was married to Harriet Wadsworth (1881-1975), whose father, James W. Wadsworth was cousin of William Austin Wadsworth, the Master and founder of the famous Genesee Valley Hunt in New York. Mrs. Harper rode sidesaddle on the off side, due to an injury.
Together, the Harpers worked tirelessly to open the land around The Plains, Virginia to foxhunting. Fletcher became renowned as a thorough and attentive Master, carefully repairing all damage to property from hunts and keeping in close contact with the farming community. Mr. Harper is generally credited with putting Orange County on the map as a premiere American hunt.
“For the past seven years Mr. Harper has carried on the traditions of the Hunt in the most able manner, his tact and great charm working wonders with those landowners who were sometimes difficult to deal with. Mr. Harper found that the greatest evil with which he had to contend was wire, and this difficulty he has successfully combated by paneling the country in some places and putting in ‘chicken coops’ in others, until he now has as rideable a territory as could be wished for.”
From Hunting in the United States and Canada, by A. Henry Higginson and Julian Ingersoll Chamberlain, 1928.
Along with George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., Alexander Mackay-Smith, and Lester Karow, Harper founded the National Sporting Library in 1954 as a public resource on equestrian and field sports. Mr. Harper served as President of NSL from its founding in 1956 until his death in 1963. In 1972, Mrs. Harper donated a painting of Mr. Harper to the NSL. This painting is a study for a finished portrait completed in 1931.
The artist, Ellen Emmett Rand, was an accomplished portrait painter who studied at The Art Students League of New York with William Merritt Chase and Kenyon Cox. She is known for her portraits of artists, writers, socialites and politicians, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
After his retirement as Master, Harper assisted Orange County in its hound breeding program until his death in 1963. He and Harriet are buried at the Georgetown Cemetery, Church of Our Savior, Broad Run, Virginia.
At the end of this month, the NSLM will be opening an exhibition of works by American illustrator Paul Brown (1893 – 1958). If there was ever an artist that horse people really love, it’s this one! Brown is known for his talent at depicting horses in action – capturing movement, emotion, and personality. Our first exhibition of Paul Brown from the Permanent Collectionwill feature his steeplechasing images from the 1930s. It will be on view August 29, 2015 through January 17, 2016.
Even though he was never a rider himself, Brown was a keen observer of horses and riders at races, hunt meets, polo matches, and horse shows. He traveled to major steeplechase races in America and England throughout his career and documented many gallant wins and dramatic crashes.
The toughest part about putting together this exhibition? Deciding which fabulous works to put on the wall! The NSLM is lucky to have over 200 examples of original works by Paul Brown. This installation is made up entirely of works within the collection. All but one – a rare 1930 oil painting – are works on paper. Pencil, ink, and watercolor are materials which are sensitive to light exposure, so we must limit the amount of time they are on display. Many of the works on view will be original pencil and ink drawings from some of Brown’s most popular books, first published in the 1930s: Spills and Thrills (1933), Ups and Downs (1936), and Good Luck and Bad (1940).
Many of you may already be familiar with Brown’s illustrations from his books for children or his “how to draw” books. It’s worth the trip to see the original works in person – some with delicate shading and subtle tone, or others with quick sketches that capture a moment with just a few lines.
In conjunction with this exhibition, NSLM will be publishing the Inaugural Llangollen Race Meeting Sketchbook. This collection of previously unpublished sketches by Paul Brown documents the glamorous steeplechase held at Llangollen Farm, in Upperville, Virginia, in 1931. The book features an essay by racing historian Dorothy Ours. The book will be released in September. Click here to learn more or pre-order.
“As a young girl, my grandmother Nancy Penn Smith Hannum inherited a kingdom she spent a lifetime fighting to protect. Goodnight Ladies is a portrait of that life – of the woman herself and the legend she became.”
Christianna Potter Hannum
Almost 500 people viewed a very popular Drawing Covert post from July 29, 2015, written about the photograph “The Hunt Scene at Middleburg”, taken November 27, 1924. The photo contains many renowned figures of Middleburg and of foxhunting, and is a reminder of the sporting heritage we share. The group would not be complete without Nancy Penn Smith Hannum, MFH.
Foxhunting since age four, Hannum left an indelible mark on the world of foxhunting. She was Master of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Hounds for over 50 years, during which time she worked tirelessly to conserve hunting lands and maintain a world-famous pack of foxhounds. Her perseverance and kindness are remembered by innumerable relatives and friends— among them granddaughter Christianna Potter Hannum. Christianna directed and produced a documentary film to share Hannum’s life and story with future generations and all who remember her.
To see a clip of Goodnight Ladies from the film’s editor, Ray Hubley, follow this link
Join us at the National Sporting Library & Museum on October 6, 2015 from 6-8pm for a special showing of Goodnight Ladies: A Portrait of Nancy Penn Smith Hannum (approximately 40 minutes) presented by the film’s director, Christianna. There will be a Q & A session following the viewing, and copies of the film will be available for purchase. Admission is $10, NSLM members are free.
The National Horse Show was founded in New York in 1883. The show rapidly grew in popularity and prominence, and by 1887, the show’s registry of members became the basis for Louis Keller’s first New York Social Register. In 1926, the National Horse Show moved into the third Madison Square Garden (MSG III) on Eighth Avenue, which had been built the prior year. The show was a mainstay at MSG III for 40 years, before eventually moving to the new Madison Square Garden (at its current location) in 1968. Today, the National Horse Show is held at the Kentucky Horse Park.
This week we have another large (about 19 x 11 inches) photograph, this time from the Harry Worcester Smith (1865-1945) archive. It depicts an unusual spectacle at the National Horse Show, November 7-12, 1927. The photo is titled “Coaching at the Garden.”
The back of the photo has a news clipping attached (from an unidentified newspaper) that describes the scene. Evidently, there were not enough entries to justify usual coaching entries into the show, but the import of “Venture,” the London and Brighton coach once owned by Mr. Alfred G. Vanderbilt (1877-1915), spurred interest and made the parade of coaches possible. Vanderbilt had formerly served as president of the National Horse Show. His son, William H. Vanderbilt, showed “Venture” at the show.
Harry Worcester Smith’s handwriting is on the right side of the clipping. His hand is very distinctive, but I admit I find it difficult to make out.
Iconic in its simple elegance, Middleburg is nestled in the idyllic countryside filled with horses grazing in pastures bounded by stone walls. For those who’ve never been, Middleburg, Virginia is foxhunting country. It wasn’t always that way; the “Great Hound Match” in 1905 put Northern Virginia on the map as prime hunting country. The following year, in 1906, the Middleburg Hunt was formed and has been active ever since.
Today we only have one image to offer, but it’s pretty special. It’s called “Hunt Scene at Middleburg,” and it’s a photo taken in 1924.
We have cropped the full scan of the image, due to the advanced deterioration of the lower edges and the brittle nature of the original print. So, what makes this image so special? First, I can tell you the exact date this image was snapped: November 27, 1924. The note on the rear of the image says that this hunting party assembled “after Thanksgiving party at Foxcroft, 1924.” But what’s really special is that a note was attached to the photo which lists the names of many of the most visible participants. That is highly unusual when exploring old photos!
The note is stamped by Chronicle of the Horse; many of our photos and albums were kept and maintained at the Chronicle before entering the NSLM collections in the 1960s. Here is our best effort to match up sections of the note to the images.
Mr. Atkinson evidently had access to a second photograph. That photo apparently showed the second group (in the far background of this photo) much more clearly. Mr. Atkinson writes:
Again I am not sure, but I believe the second lady on a white horse leading the second group is Miss Charlotte N. In the small photograph I can only recognize the Hunstman, Robert Maddux, Mr. Sands leading on the road, with Mr. Jim Skinner on his right, and Mr. Halbert on the white mule.
I am sorry I can’t be more helpful. Sincerely, Thomas Atkinson.
It’s possible that the second photo will emerge someday. Do you recognize anybody in the photograph above?
Monday - CLOSED
Tuesday - CLOSED
Wednesday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
“Drawing Covert,” refers to the practice in foxhunting of putting hounds in a covert (pronounced like “cover”), a thicket or wooded brush area, to find the fox.
This blog is about the exhibitions, tours, research, programs, and events, at NSLM on its unique collection of books, archives, paintings, sculpture and much more.